Millions say 'no' to war in Iraq

More than four million peace protesters in hundreds of cities around the world rally against the U.S.-threat of force against Iraq

Peace activists marched in hundreds of cities around the world Saturday to denounce a possible U.S.-led war against Iraq.

More than four million people rallied in New York, Washington, Baghdad, London, Rome, Paris, Berlin, Hong Kong, Tokyo, Toronto, Vancouver, Montreal and many other cities across North America, Asia, Europe, New Zealand and Australia.

In London, at least 750,000 people marched through central London to a rally in Hyde Park to call for a peaceful solution to the current international crisis. Police called it the largest demonstration in the city's history.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair is one of the strongest supporters of American policy. At a Labour Party conference in Glasgow Saturday, he once again argued that Iraqi President Saddam Hussein must be ousted from power.

"If the result of peace, of an absence of conflict, is Saddam staying in power, not disarmed, I simply say there are consequences, paid in blood for that decision, too," Blair said.

"These victims will never be seen. They will never feature on our TV screens to inspire millions to take to the streets. But they exist nonetheless."

"Ridding the world of Saddam would be an act of humanity. It is leaving him there that is inhumane," Blair added.

In a direct message to protesters, the prime minister said he respects their right to freedom of speech but added that it's his job to lead by conviction and not by popularity polls.

"I do not seek unpopularity as a badge of honour. But sometimes it is the price of leadership, and the cost of conviction."

The largest demonstration was in Rome, where an estimated one million opponents of war marched through the streets.

The Italian protest came as Iraqi deputy prime minister Tariq Aziz continued his visit to the Vatican. Aziz, who is Christian, prayed for peace Saturday at St. Francis Basilica in Asisi.

Up to 500,000 people marched through Berlin to protest Bush's hardline policy on Iraq, and to offer support for German leader Gerhard Schroeder's call for a peaceful solution to the crisis.

More than 600,000 people rallied in Barcelona, and another 500,000 in Madrid. At least 100,000 marched in Paris.

Demonstrations turned violent in Greece as riot police blasted tear gas into crowds gathered in Athens. Hundreds broke away from the mainly peaceful mass to break store windows and hurl gasoline bombs.

The main body of peaceful protesters hung a massive banner across the wall of the ancient Acropolis before marching on to the U.S. Embassy.

Protesters in New York gathered near the heavily guarded United Nations, streaming into police-barricaded zones. Organizers estimated at least 500,000 people took part in the rally.

As police maintained a buffer zone of several blocks around the UN, South African Bishop Desmond Tutu held an ecumenical service at a church nearby.

"Peace! Peace! Peace! Let America listen to the rest of the world and the rest of the world is saying: 'Give the inspectors time'," Tutu said.

Anti-war protests were staged in dozens of other cities across the U.S., including Chicago, Philadelphia, Miami, and Seattle.

At several of the rallies, many of the participants said they had never before marched for a cause.

Supporters for an international day of action held afternoon protests in various Canadian cities, including Toronto, Vancouver, Montreal, Halifax, Windsor, Edmonton and Victoria.

Crowds in Amsterdam and Copenhagen drew crowds as large as 10,000 each, while in South Africa, 5,000 rallied in Capetown and 4,000 in Johannesburg.

In Ukraine, 2,000 people gathered in Kyiv's central square carrying slogans denouncing any future military action.

New Zealand, Australia lead protests

The day of protests began as thousands of people marched through cities across New Zealand, chanting slogans including "One, two, three, four, we don't want your bloody war!"

As many as 5,000 people marched through a suburb of the Australian capital of Canberra. Australia's government has committed 2,000 troops to support military action in the Persian Gulf.

As many as 6,000 people protested in Tokyo on Friday, as about 300 activists gathered near the U.S. Embassy Saturday, where they laid flowers and submitted anti-war petitions.

Although the rally was peaceful, many demonstrators took a tough stance against American policy. One sign showed a U.S. flag emblazoned with a swastika. A much larger rally was scheduled for Saturday evening in Tokyo.

"We must stop the war as it is part of the United States' plot for global domination," protest organizer Nasir Hashim told a cheering crowd in the Malaysian capital of Kuala Lumpur, where 1,500 activists and opposition supporters gathered outside the U.S. Embassy.

Groups rallied next to Hong Kong's City Hall, including human rights activists, social workers and religious representatives. They brought drums and gongs and some dressed in rocket or oil-tank shaped costumes.

Others waved placards that said: "No blood for oil" and "Drop Bush, not bombs." The rally was followed by a march to the U.S. Consulate in Hong Kong.

Protests also took place in Bangkok, Taipei, and Singapore, attracting thousands.

Day of protest in Iraq

The protest extended to Iraq, where tens of thousands of citizens, Baath Party members and workers marched for peace in the streets of Baghdad.

The Iraqi government announced on state television that Saturday is "world anger day," calling on Iraqis to participate in demonstrations to show "their solidarity with the world community."

Some Iraqi protesters burned American and Iraqi flags while carrying large posters of Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.

There were also anti-war demonstrations in several Arab countries. In Syria, the French news agency Agence France Press estimated more than 200,000 demonstrators turned out in Damascus.

In nearby Jordan, thousands of people turned out in the pouring rain to denounce the U.S. and Israel.